Get to duh choppah! “Predators”

July 11, 2010

Well, way to phone it in there, Hollywood! No, really, good that you’re saving your strength. I’d hate for you to get winded this early in the summer, right? I mean, hey, it’s just the height of dumb-popcorn-movie season, no reason for you to, I dunno, deliver a decent dumb-popcorn-movie! Newsflash: just because the original Predator did it 23 years ago doesn’t mean that you’re doing it when you crank out the same damn movie over two decades later. I mean, sweet crap, after 23 years, three movies, umpteen gazillion comics and books and video games, one of you creative geniuses couldn’t have horked up at least one vaguely original idea for Predators? This doesn’t even count as a remake and I know how much you love those goddamn things.

Now, Predators does begin with a mildly interesting new wrinkle—the movie starts with the main character, Royce (Adrien Brody), regaining consciousness only to find himself plummeting to the ground.  A chute opens and he (relatively) soft-lands in the midst of a scary jungle. Over the next quarter of the movie, he’ll link up with various other people who’re in the same boat (and jungle) as he is. In short order, they figure out that they’re all boku badasses. There’s an Israeli sniper (Alice Braga), a Spetznaz soldier (Oleg Taktarov), a Mexican cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo), a yakuza hitman (Louis Ozawa Changchien), an African  warlord (some dude with a long first name, but his last name is Ali), a death-row inmate (Walton Goggins), and a boyish doctor (Topher Grace). All of them speak English, by the way. Even the African warlord, who, when you think about it, would have absolutely no reason to speak English. Oh well, the filmmakers didn’t worry about that, so neither should we I guess.

Okay, so now that that’s all set up the movie then screws around establishing what we already know: you’re being hunted by Predators! Admittedly, this isn’t excruciatingly dull. The characters are all fairly bright, and director Nimrod Antal throws in a few neat surprises along the way: we get Preda-hounds chasing the group. Some nasty traps that echo the first film, and a great visual sequence when the characters look to the sky and realize, oh Toto, we are sooo not in Kansas anymore.

But the rest pretty much goes by the numbers: Predators chase humans. Predators kill (most) humans except for the leads. Humans turn the tables and kill Predators. Fin. The movie throws in a few very, very minor updates to the Predator lore we’ve seen thus far: aside from the Pred-hounds, we also get a kind of Predator Batarang which serves as a surveillance drone. Okay, as far as these things go, but for a reboot/remake/big budget sequel it’s strictly small potatoes.  Imagine if The Empire Strikes Back featured absolutely nothing we didn’t see in Star Wars except for Luke Skywalker’s new electric razor? It’s like that.

The big addition this time around is the introduction of a new uber-Predator, which apparently are hunting the regular Predators we’ve all come to know and love. Or just fucking with them—the movie doesn’t really make it clear. Anyway, these new super-mega-banzai Predators have scarier helmets and slightly bigger tusks. So, 23 years since Stan Winston designed the original Predator and this is what we fucking get?

When you get right down to it, the original Predator, while good, was a fairly flimsy premise to hang a franchise off of. I’m pretty sure the books and comics went a little deeper into the Predators as a species, but neither screenwriter (Alex Litvak, Michael Finch—no prior screenwriting credits to either of their names in IMDB) makes the effort here. As a matter of fact nothing in this movie really seeks to give us anything new or different from what we’ve seen before. Not the characters, not the fights, not the killings. Nada. I mean, when you’re movie can’t even surmount the creativity of an Aliens vs. Predator installment, you know you’re really boned.

The movie is also bereft of any sense of humor—a charge you certainly couldn’t level at the first one.  Not only is there no “Get to duh choppah!” (yeah, the headline was a big tease), but there’s also no irony-drenched moment matching the scene in the original in which we get a reverent build-up to the team’s Native American warrior preparing to battle the  Predator with his tribal knife—only to cut away to his terrified screams. Instead, Predators treats us to the yakuza dude fighting the predator with a Katana sword. It should be either hilariously over-the-top or iconic, but instead it’s just dull. Actually, the funniest thing in it is inadvertent—when a character describes the Predator’s M.O. as “they hunt you and kill you. In that order.” Which, when you think about it, really is the most logical order for those things.

The movie might have been saved if it offered characters as over-the-top as the original, but all of the walking corpses in Predators are muted and indifferent. Alice Braga is every bit her aunt’s neice, but the movie doesn’t give her much emotional payoff. Brody, for his part, is woefully miscast. I know that Brody garnered a lifetime pass from Hollywood when he appeared in The Pianist—a movie that combined two things Hollywood absolutely loves: Roman Polanski and the Holocaust. While I admit he’s a talented actor, he’s also a massive charisma-suck. It would have been a far more interesting if we’d had a slightly more dashing or lively leading-man in the role.

Also, for a bunch of badass professional killer, none of them seem to know how to wield a gun professionally. They shoot from the hip a lot. Royce carries a 38 year-old failed automatic shotgun, and the Israeli sniper carries a fucking hunting rifle. Who was the armorer for this movie?

So, that’s Predators. Best thing I can say about it is that the only thing it adds to the original is another letter in the title.

One comment

  1. I have to agree with your review completly, only I enjoyed the movie. It could have been longer, had more to it, and maybe explored the characters a little more.

    And who made all the advanced tech the predators have? Do they have predator scientists and inventors? They hunt information? Where do they come from? Where are all the female predators? I want more to the predator lore, and this movie really didn’t add anything new.

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